Attack of the morale-killing bosses

Attack of the morale-killing bosses

By John Foust

In my advertising and training career, I’ve observed – and heard about – a lot of boss-employee encounters. Some have been good, some have been bad.

All have been instructive. In many cases, we can learn as much from the negative incidents as we can from the positive ones. Here are several examples:

  1. The competitive boss. This kind of manager can’t seem to play fairly with others, especially if commissions are involved. Unfortunately, the competitive boss is in position to cherry-pick the best prospects. I knew of one company that relied on a notebook to log incoming leads. The boss was one of three people in the ad sales department, and the procedure was to alternate leads. The others on the team realized that she regularly deleted and re-designated the leads, so prime prospects would be assigned to her.
  1. The boastful boss. This manager can’t resist bragging that he or she has special perks. The CEO of an advertising services company was once invited by a client to attend one of the biggest college basketball matchups of the year. Although it was one of the scarcest tickets of the season – and although no one else in the firm had a ticket – he made it the main focus of an all-staff meeting on the morning of the game. The next day, the entire office received a follow up email from him, with a closeup photograph of the crowd taken from the television broadcast. The email boasted that he appeared just a few rows above press row at center court.
  1. The disrespectful boss. A disgruntled employee told me about the sales manager who scheduled a regular weekly staff meeting and warned everyone that there was no excuse to miss it or be late. That worked fine for a couple of weeks, although the team often had to rush appointments and phone calls to make it to the conference room on time.

Then came the day when the manager was late for the meeting. Not fifteen minutes late, not thirty minutes. She was over an hour late. She didn’t offer any explanation or apology. All she said was, “Okay, let’s get started.”

“That was the last straw for a lot of us,” the employee said. “We sat there debating whether we should go back to our desks, but decided we’d better wait. That was a clear sign that she had no respect for us or our time.”

  1. The public criticism boss. A salesperson once told me about the time his boss openly complained about his performance in front of everyone in the ad department. “It was bad to be told publicly that I was short of my sales goal,” he said. “That kind of thing should be done one-to-one.”

Perhaps none of these management mistakes are worthy of investigation by the human resources department, but they all indicate the bosses’ morale killing attitudes toward the people they manage. And they provide crystal clear examples of what not to do.


(c) Copyright 2021 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: